Jul 28, 2014
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OCHS Marching Band Finds Strength In Numbers

The marching band has more than 200 students this year and could grow to 300 in the next five years.

The Oak Creek High School Marching Band is growing. And it isn't likely to stop anytime soon.

Band Directors Amy Fuchs and Guy Gregg told the Oak Creek-Franklin School Board on Monday that 216 students are in band this year, a number so high they added a freshman-only band.

They may have to make more changes in the future: the directors project that band participation will grow to 300 by the 2015-16 school year and 390 by 2018-19.

"It's just really growing like crazy," Fuchs said.

The School Board honored the marching band Monday for finishing third in the state marching band competition and winning Best Musical Presentation Caption for the first time ever. The group missed out on second place by just 0.3 points.

"That was extremely heartbreaking and exciting at the same time," Fuchs said.

Superintendent Sara Burmeister read a letter from state Superintendent Tony Evers congratulating the Marching Knights on their performance and praising the students and leadership of the band.

The school district and community have always been proud of the fine arts program, Burmeister said. So perhaps it's no surprise the band continues to be a popular offering at Oak Creek High School.

While Fuchs and Gregg are happy to see so many students involved, it also creates challenges—the band only has so many uniforms and instruments, for example.

Separating freshmen into their own unit was a solution they felt would still allow everyone who wanted to join band to do so, while giving them more individualized instruction and a taste of what the marching band is like.

They worked hard to incorporate the freshmen into the Marching Knights as best they could.

"We really try to promote a family atmosphere," Fuchs said. "We are very, very active. We do a lot all year long. So it has also given them an opportunity to get the hang of what high school band is all about without having all of it on their plate all at once."

But in the future, they may not be able to divide the band any further. Fuchs said she doesn't like the idea of freshmen, junior varsity and varsity squads, saying it doesn't give the inclusiveness she feels is important in music education.

Band directors have to continue being creative in managing the high numbers while giving kids a good experience, she said.

The same holds true for many other high school programs, Burmeister said. Enrollment is getting larger at the elementary and middle schools, which means a strain will be put on the high school in the coming years.

"There is no easy answer," Fuchs said.

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